I’ve never been a fan of bumper sticker theology. Even less so twitter theology. John 3:16 is a pretty good attempt at condensing the Gospel into 280 characters but that was God inspired Apostolic writing. #Blessed.
Whilst there is a place for very clever, laconic soundbites, they can sometimes err on the over simplistic and in some cases be misleading. And this is one of them: ‘God is my co-pilot’. I’m not the first to notice this or comment on it. People then started to say, ‘If God is your co-pilot, swap seats’ and then simply ‘God is my pilot’.
Now then, I think we can all agree that God isn’t a pilot. You won’t step on to a Jet2 flight to Malaga and seen Jesus welcoming you on board, the Father in the cockpit and the Holy Spirit selling the duty free. Our God is one, he is Creator, Messiah, Redeemer, Saviour and so much more. I feel as though by over humanising God, by attributing him a certain career or hobby or human trait can distract us from how truly awesome and Holy He is. Now although He isn’t the seat, the good news is God has never failed to be present on any of my sorties. He is there in the cockpit, even though I’m the one doing the flying.
God may not be your co-pilot. But he is certainly in command. Jesus tells us that apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5) and I have had to learn this the hard way. Early in my military flying training, I started out my flying training without Him. It’s not that I wasn’t a in relationship with God, but I wasn’t including him in this part of my life. I prayed, went to church, took communion, read the bible, but my relationship with Him was separate to the rest of my life, including my flying.
After a few decent training sorties, I had the worst flight of my life. It was bad. Nothing dangerous, I was just performing below the standard expected by the RAF. I was close to giving up, I felt like I was imposter wearing the uniform. Thankfully ‘God works all things together for good’ (Romans 8:28) and he set up that awful flight with the kindest and most gracious instructor we had. He took me outside the squadron and gave me a firm, honest but above all loving, bollocking. In summary, I needed a miraculous turn around to stay on course.
I turned to reading my Bible again and chanced (if there is such a thing as chance) upon Colossians 3:23. It struck me that although I was working heartily, it was for myself. It had been my career, my sorties and I left God out of it as soon as I had finished my morning devotion. So, the next day, I went through the same morning devotion, but I offered up the day to the Lord. I prayed before each flight, I asked the Lord to bless each sortie and realised that I could honour and worship the Lord through my flying (1 Corinthians 10:31). It became painfully clear looking back that I was only flying in the RAF because of all God had worked in my life up to that very moment. My favourite verse is Philippians 4:6-7. I presented my entire life to God, I invited Him to come and take command of each aspect of my life; family, work, friends, down time, it was all for Him. Paul says if we do this, ‘the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’.
The result? God never took over the controls to land the aircraft when it got too hairy for me, I still had to work hard and put in hours of study and preparation. But one piece of consistent feedback I got from my instructors stood out for me. They all said after that awful flight, that I was incredibly calm in the air, never got phased by any changes, I had a cool-headed reaction to any emergencies or events (even if I didn’t exactly make the best decision afterwards!). I then recalled that promise in Philippians 4. God wasn’t my co-pilot, but He was and is in command of everything. Good, He makes a better go of it than me.
Image Credit: Patrick Tomasso